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Jessica Pegula opens up about mother Kim’s cardiac arrest in Players’ Tribune essay
The incident has left Kim Pegula, President and Co-owner of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, dealing with aphasia and memory loss—and preceded Bills player Damar Hamlin’s own cardiac arrest in January.
Published Feb 07, 2023
WATCH: Unstrung—Jessica Pegula and the Family Business
In a stirring essay published in the Players’ Tribune, Jessica Pegula revealed her mother Kim suffered from cardiac arrest last summer—an incident that has the longtime President and Co-Owner of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres dealing with significant health issues in the eight months since.
Pegula was moved to share her family’s harrowing battle following Damar Hamlin’s own episode of cardiac arrest during the 2023 Australian Open in January, during which she publicly paid tribute to the Bills star.
“I decided to wear the number 3 patch to honor Damar Hamlin,” wrote Pegula. “Ironically, yes, I was ranked No. 3 in the world. However, it didn’t feel like it was just for him, it felt like it was for my mom as well.”
Kim Pegula co-owns Buffalo’s biggest sporting properties alongside husband Terry; while her hospitalization was reported at the time, the diagnosis and the extent of her health struggles have been kept private as daughter Jessica compiled her best-ever season on the WTA tour, peaking at No. 3 in the rankings and winning her first WTA 1000 title in Guadalajara.
“Before the finals, I was uncontrollably crying in the locker room,” Pegula wrote. “I am not a big crier, but I cried. It wasn’t even sad tears, it was almost happy, because I just had this feeling I was going to win.
“In my acceptance speech I dedicated it to my mom. I wanted her to know that even after a terrible six months, I still fought every day because of her. If she could fight through what she was going through, I could too.”
Revived by daughter Kelly, who had recently become certified in CPR, Kim Pegula continues to improve but still struggles with expressive aphasia and memory loss, both of which cloud her ability to resume her high-powered job as an elite sports executive and even led Jessica to briefly consider a career pivot of her own.
“Suddenly, I went from ‘Let’s celebrate top 10 in the world’ to ‘Do I need to start thinking about my career after tennis a lot sooner than I thought?’ ‘Does my dad and family need help?’ ‘Maybe I should just go back to school and work for the family.’ I am 28 and I take pride in being able to handle every situation thrown at me, but this was A LOT.”
Working through her own issues with anxiety in the wake of the incident, Pegula nonetheless began 2023 by reaching a third straight Australian Open quarterfinal in singles and the semifinals in doubles with partner Coco Gauff.